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Where’s Tom Smith?

In a race of unknown candidates, the strategy for Tom Smith is clear. The best-funded of the five Republicans vying to unseat Sen. Bob Casey, Smith simply needs to let his prolific televisions do the talking.

As such, he’s missed a number of high-profile and televised forums which his opponents attended, from the Pa. Society debate in December, to WPVI ABC 6’s Philadelphia Inside Story with Matt O’Donnell which aired this morning (filmed on April 12). Other notable absences include Larry Kane’s Voice of Reason (on April 5) , Steve Highsmith’s At Issue TV program on NBC 10 Philadelphia (on March 30), and the lack of an individual appearance for a segment on PCN’s call-in show for candidates.

Rival Steve Welch says Smith is hiding.

“It raises questions about why Smith keeps pulling from public events, especially events that major press organizations cover. Perhaps he is trying to hide his 42-year allegiance to the Democratic Party; or his record of raising taxes 9 times on his constituents; or his maximum contribution to liberal Congressman Jason Altmire,” Welch’s campaign said in a statement.

Welch campaign manager Peter Towey said the absences started around the time that news broke of tax increases Smith supported during his time as a local official in the 1970s. (Smith voted to raise taxes 3 times by PoliticsPA’s count, and 6 times to maintain them at existing levels – details here).

Welch has taken his share of lumps during numerous public appearances and forums. But while dyed-in-wool activists already knew about Welch’s partisan past – he re-registered as a Democrat in 2005 and voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 primary – but few regular voters did. The timing of Welch’s first negative TV ad – which highlights Smith’s own Democratic history – helped turn the party-switcher attack back at Smith.

Add all that to polling which shows Smith in the lead in the race – making him a target for all four opponents – and you have a picture of a candidate with little incentive to expose himself to his opponents’ fire.

Smith’s campaign says his absence from Kane’s show was a scheduling mix up. Otherwise, they say, he’s been visible.

“Tom has participated in nearly twenty public debates, and countless media interviews. He continues to welcome the opportunity to share his vision for conservative change,” said campaign manager Jim Conroy.

“This is just another desperate and dishonest attack from Steve Welch intended to distract voters from his liberal past that includes voting for Barack Obama and campaigning for Joe Sestak.”

Smith is a former coal company owner from Armstrong County; Welch is a entrepreneur from Chester County. They face David Christian, a businessman and veterans advocate from Bucks County; Sam Rohrer, a former state Rep. from Berks County; and Marc Scaringi, an attorney from Cumberland County.

17 Responses

  1. Bryan, Appreciate the clarification and can always have a discussion w/ a reasonable individual. Knowing Tom first as a successful tea party leader who built a dynamic organization that impacted its region and then getting to know him as Candidate Tom Smith, Tom is one of the most conservative, humble men I have met , especially considering the access he has achieved in so many diverse arenas. I know for a fact he got into this race because he sees the possibility of the American Dream that he achieved slipping away for his children’s and his grandchildrens generation; that isn’t a talking point, that is the Tom Smith I know.

    I understand your concern and can appreciate it having lived around the country. In fact, if I had not been raised in Western PA and then moved back to North Central PA in 2003, I would most likely share your concern. However, in the rural areas of PA and especially in the farming community there is an overabundance of generational democrats. Family tradition including their children registering as democrats when they first voted and it never really had much to do with how they voted, they just registered and that was it. So, being a democrat in these areas did not equate to voting for democrats in the election. In fact, you will find many of these rural counties have democratic majority of voters and republican courthouses. The democrats are not progressives, they are fiscal and social conservatives, many purely tired of how the government has interfered with their lives.

    I have often heard the question, why didn’t he just run against Bob Casey. Well because he isn’t and wasn’t a democrat as we know it who came from any other part of the state. Especially when they look at his participation in the precinct project, getting elected to county committee and then being “silenced” for holding fundraisers for Rohrer, Corbett, etc and giving the huge amounts he has to republican candidates and conservative causes throughout the years.
    One real litmus test to see if who he says he is holds water is what do the republicans in his home county say and think of Tom. I would refer you to the state committee vote. Armstrong, Indiana, Jefferson and Clarion County delegations voted to endorse Tom, he also picked up votes in other surrounding counties where the vote was split between Tom and other candidates.
    I can tell you, he is not a RINO. He doesn’t need the money, nor the power-he could easily enjoy life on his farm and have plenty to keep himself occupied in retired. Tom is a citizen legislator stepping forward at a time where we need a true fiscal conservative who we do not have to worried will be bullied by leadership or pressured into a vote. I can not say that about others in the race as I have read their explanation for votes they made.
    He is also the one republican who can both win the primary and the general election , will not be beholden to party leadership AND can unite the republican party and bring in Independent votes.
    Best Regards, John

  2. John–Apologies If I wasn’t clear. I’m quite happy for Tom Smith and his success, and I am by no means whatsoever attacking his candidacy based upon his success–you’re very correct in saying that’s the antithesis of Republican ideology. What I mean to say is, I found it a bit perplexing that an ex-Democratic leader has the most campaign funds (I’ve no idea how much of that’s his own–and that doesn’t really concern me). I don’t trust him b/c of his Democratic roots, not because of his personal successes and his achieving the American Dream—and I’d certainly prefer him over Steve Welch (a no-brainer, really, since he’s vocally supported Sestak and voted for Obama).

  3. Fantastic article Keegan. Thanks for covering all aspects of this race with such fairness.


  4. Bryan-“I don’t trust …Smith…and now Smith is the best-funded? Ridiculous”
    The day republicans despise people who have lived the American Dream as Tom has and feel that he is not trustworthy due to that success is the day the republican party adopts the principles of occupy wall street, the antithesis of republican values and of our founders.
    BTW, outside state committee , who knew Tom because of his generous support for years of their candidates, Tom Smith had very low name recognition. We have a farmer, successful businessman who created sustainable income jobs, a tea party leader until he resigned to run for US Senate who has the resources to be able to get his name out there and concentrate on meeting people and hearing their concerns, and his trustworthiness is questioned because of his resources? That doesn’t sound like a republican or libertarian critique.

  5. What I really can’t understand is that Steve Welch ran an ad against Tom Smith, calling him out on having been a Democrat longer than Pres. Obama.

    Steve Welch, you VOTED for Obama and SUPPORTED Joe Sestak when he ran for Congress. This is ridiculous. This is really, truly ridiculous. I don’t trust Welch OR Smith. Welch is backed by Gov. Corbett and the establishment, and now Smith is the best-funded? Ridiculous. I’ll be truly disappointed if either one of these untrustables wins the primary. We’d be better off running somebody w/ low name recognition against Casey then someone in all likelihood probably VOTED for him (shout-out to Steve Welch).

  6. @ Bob Guzzardi- Be careful lest you confuse people with the facts.

    I noticed listening to last nights interview with Sam, he had to be asked , again, but another memo that came out and was challenged on it.

    It was a classic Sam answer. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, because I know and like Sam, it points to one of his glaring weaknesses; the inability to control the messages put out on the trail by his people. By not employing them, but by giving titles, there can be a distance placed between himself and the “releases”.

    That just strikes the average person as business as usual. If he said it was my fault, it was false, and I am issuing a personal correction, that would have been handling it . After the PLC, they issued a email claiming Sam is the “only conservative” in the race. I responded to staff and received two responses. Was a correction issued? No. Objectively, this is a pattern.

    In Friday/s paper, LTE’s, his people again repeated the occupy wall street mantra about the alleged $500,000 bus they claim he bought to tour the state in as a reason to show he is a big spender who can’t be trusted with their money. Forget how flawed the argument is, they never checked the talking point to find out Tom rents the older model bus.The facts undermine their argument and in fact proves the opposite;Tom knows how to do more with less.

    @ Karen. We got the notice to participate in their vote as well. I did not pass it along to our three chapters. It was irresponsible to commit to their terms. Group think by an unscientific poll in a historic election year where participation required “backing” their winner. Please. This is antithetical to the entire precept . Close your eyes, forget about accountability, forget about vetting, forget about all the credos you formed your group on, and go along with the crowd. The amazing thing is 30 groups agreed to those terms!

  7. Tom Smith has contributed more than HALF MILLION DOLLARS to conservative candidates like Pat Toomey in 2004 and to free market think tanks.

    Tom Smith is a real deal Constitutional Limited Government, Economic Freedom, Traditional Values Candidate.

    Tom Smith is a Blue Star dad with two kids in the military.

    Tom Smith has been everywhere. Recently there was a very energized ‘meet and greet’ at The Great American Pub with quite a few Republican defying the central party’s diktat to support only Steve Welch.

    Steve Welch chose to entangle himself with Rob Gleason and Dave Freed and the rest of the Establishment’s team, all represented by BrabenderCox and Brian Nutt with Tom Corbett’s heavy hand.

    The contest is between Tom Smith and Sam Roher and Steve Welch is not even on radar screen polling less well than Dave Christian who is very well known in Bucks County and across the state by all the military vets organizations.

  8. @ RePublis -The same back room that those in the TEA movement claim to hate. Amazing how the tea party around this state work… They claim they didn’t want the state GOP committee to endorse, but yet they all ban together and endorse their own candidate… If it were wrong for state GOP committee to do it, it should be just as wrong from the tea party’s around the state to do it too…

  9. “All 30 tea party groups”? No, only the 30 tea party groups stupid enough to give up their autonomy and back the “consensus” candidate. Sounds like BACK ROOM POLITICS to me!

  10. @karen– Really, Karen? I find that extremely hard to believe since all 30 tea party groups from across the State have endorsed Sam Rohrer for US Senate. But just like Tom’s spin machine, the truth is seldom heard.

  11. o.k., where was Welch tonight? We were all there with Tom Smith and Governor Romney at the Franklin Institute! Tom Smith got two standing ovations, from a full room of Tea party supporters and Primary Voters! Tom Smith will be our nominee!

  12. You have to understand that it is Tom Smith’s own poll that has him leading. There is no way a life long Democrat or any Democrat will either win the nomination or beat an incumbent Democrat. Welch, Rohrer, Smith. Nothing more than 3 suits filled with hot air and none of the have a clue about the truth.

  13. @ Tom-ditto, agreed. I have known Tom since 2009 through IAP, who has a chapter in Indiana and Armstrong County. We are in the neighboring county, with chapters in Jefferson and Clearfield Counties. I highly respect Tom, the work he has done and his strong conservative values.

    Brabender Cox’s motto is,”Whatever it takes to influence voters.”. If the truth be a casualty, so be it.

    The last person Welch or the Democrats want to win in the primary is Tom Smith;

  14. WOW, one Democrat calling out another Democrat. Both running under the Republican banner. Would never vote for either of these turncoats. They would be better off challenging Casey for the Democratic Primary, that’s where they belong!

  15. The easiest way to find Tom Smith would be to check his website for the bus tour schedule. He is out meeting the people and discussing the issues with them.

  16. Wow Article has some spin but OK.
    Where is Politicspa highlight of the $600,00 handout grant Obama Welch got from Rendell while Obama Welch as a Democrat was supporting Obama and raising money for Sestak, Welch has tried to hide it but DN had it correct. He applied, got the grant & held the approval for 18 months until withdraw 18 months later when Welch wanted to challenge Pat Meehan
    How about a little equal balance of articles.

  17. Pretty desperate, from the sounds of it: I’ve run into Smith dozens of times in the last several months. I don’t think hiding is in his nature–and since Welch is plainly going to lose next week, who cares what his flacks have to say?

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